If you’re one of the more than 20 million women who are dealing with signs of thinning and hair loss, you likely feel scared and embarrassed. Each time you brush your hair and see signs of excess shedding or notice extra hair in the drain of the tub or shower after you shampoo, you may feel anxious and worried about your appearance.
The truth is that hair loss in women is often very treatable. The majority of women who suffer from hair loss can stop thinning and even regrow hair with the right treatment. Depending on your type of hair loss, there may be many types of available treatments to help you cope with the problem. The first step is determining the cause of your hair loss, which will require a visit to your doctor.
Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll be in the position to choose the right hair loss treatment solution for your needs.
Choosing a Doctor
Most women have a natural inclination to talk to their primary care or family doctor about hair loss, but often general practitioners lack the necessary experience and training to effectively treat hair loss. To have the best chance for success, you’re well served to visit a specialist who has advanced knowledge of the many causes, types and treatments of hair loss in women. Dermatologists are the specialists who treat disorders of the hair and scalp, so you’ll want to schedule an appointment with one in your area. Ask your general practitioner and friends and family members for referrals, and check the American Academy of Dermatology site for a complete listing of board-registered dermatology physicians in your area.
Before You Visit
Just as you should take your time selecting the right doctor to help you manage your hair loss problem, you should take care to research hair loss before you go to your appointment. Read over the information on our site and get a thorough understanding of the complex issues surrounding treating hair loss in women. This way, you’ll be better able to communicate with your doctor and ask about specific treatments that he or she may not recommend.
During Your Visit
At your appointment, your doctor will begin by examining your scalp and asking you questions about your general health. Your doctor should also order a complete blood workup to rule out hormonal imbalances and other medical conditions that could cause hair loss. At a minimum your doctor should check your thyroid, your iron levels and your free and total testosterone levels. He or she should also check DHEA, prolactin, FSH and LH levels and do a complete blood count.
Before you leave the office, ask your doctor to write down what tests he or she has ordered. If one of the above tests is not on the list, request it. Typically, blood work results are returned to doctors within 1 to 3 weeks. When he or she has the results of your blood work, you will either receive a phone call or be asked to return to the office to discuss the results and determine a course of treatment.
Female Androgenic Alopecia
The most common type of hair loss among women of all ages is female androgenic alopecia. Sometimes called female pattern baldness, this condition results in hair loss in a specific pattern. Thinning typically begins along the part and then progresses outward from the middle of the scalp. Depending on how much hair has been lost, doctors will classify it as Type I, Type II or Type III. Although many experienced doctors can recognize female pattern baldness on sight, you should still undergo medical testing prior to beginning treatment.
Features of Female Androgenic Alopecia
The underlying cause of female androgenic alopecia is male sex hormones or androgens. In some women, the hair follicles are extra sensitive to the effects of these hormones. The androgen hormones send a message to the hair follicles, signalling that they should grow less hair. When the follicles do not continue to grow a hair, eventually the body sheds it, and new hair does not grow in its place.
Causes of Female Androgenic Alopecia
In some women, a hormonal imbalance is to blame for the onset of androgenic alopecia; however, in most cases there is no precise cause. Doctors and scientists believe that in these women, the hair follicles are innately more sensitive to androgens. Family history and genetics can play a role in determining whether or not a woman is overly sensitive to androgens, but the majority of women with female androgenic alopecia do not have a relative with the condition.
Treatments for Female Androgenic Alopecia
For women with female pattern baldness, there are four main treatment routes.
– Growth Stimulants – These treatments work by stimulating the hair follicles and encouraging them to begin regrowing hair. The ingredients they contain work against the messages that androgen hormones send to the follicles.
– Antiandrogens and Androgen Blockers – The goal of anti-androgens and androgen blockers is to limit how much of the male hormones are available in the body to aff